It might surprise you that despite having a population of about 335,000, Belfast typically draws just as many attendees to its annual Gay Pride celebration in early August as Dublin, which has nearly 200,000 more residents. Indeed, although Belfast has only four or five specifically gay bars and pubs, the historic and picturesque capital of Northern Ireland boasts a sizable and increasingly visible LGBT community.
Belfast Gay Pride comprises about 10 days of festivities and events in late July and early August of each year, with this year's event beginning on July 29 and culminating with Belfast Pride Parade Day on August 6, 2016.
During the days leading up to the big weekend, events related to Belfast Pride include the Out and About Annual Pride Walk, plus more than 100 smaller gatherings, lectures, social get-togethers, and more. Here's a full calendar of 2016 Belfast Gay Pride parties and events, and you can also view the comprehensive Belfast Pride Guide here.
The Belfast Gay Pride Parade is held on Saturday, August 6, and this year marks the 26th anniversary of this well-attended event that pulls in more than 50,000 participants and spectators each year. Typically, the marchers depart at noon from Custom House Square.
Also on August 6, the Belfast Pride Village is set up in centrally located Writer's Square, usually from 11 am until 5 pm, and features vendors, community organizations, live music, family activities, all sorts of tasty food, and much more.
Belfast Gay Scene and Key Attractions
As the political and cultural capital of Northern Ireland, the second largest city on the island of Ireland, and one of the United Kingdom's most prominent metropolises, Belfast has become a highly popular tourist destination in recent years, especially as this textiles and shipbuilding hub (the Titanic was constructed here, and the fantastic Titanic Belfast Museum is a huge visitor draw) has moved past its infamous era of civil strife known as "The Troubles," which had largely subsided by the end of the 1990s.
The city has a first-rate music and performing arts scene, and other notable attractions include Belfast Castle, Crumlin Road Gaol, the Ulster Museum, St. George's Market, the Botanic Gardens, and the Grand Opera House.
Most of the handful of gay bars and gay-popular businesses in Belfast are clustered around the junction of Union and Donegall Street, in the city center, about a 20-minute walk northwest of the central train station and a 30-minute walk west of the attractions in and around the Titanic Quarter. It's home to one of the most prominent gay bars in the city, the Union Street Bar, as well as popular LGBT clubs like Kremlin and the more mixed but very welcoming Titanic Pub & Kitchen.
For a steamier experience, drop by Belfast's popular gay bathhouse, Outside Sauna, which is also in the city's gay district.
Getting to Belfast
Belfast lies in the eastern end of Northern Ireland, at the northeastern tip of the island of Ireland - it's situated where the River Lagan empties into Belfast Lough, which then opens to the North Channel just above the Irish Sea.
It's a about a two-hour drive up the coast from Dublin, and by a combination of car and ferry, a four-hour drive from Glasgow, a five-hour drive from Edinburgh, and seven-hour drive from Manchester. There are also plenty of direct flights from London (a little over an hour away by plane) and many other major cities.
Belfast Gay Resources
You can learn about the Belfast gay scene from a variety of websites, including the Nighttours Belfast Gay Guide, About.com's very well-researched and thorough Ireland site has numerous helpful articles on visiting and exploring Belfast. Most prominently, the official tourism organization Visit Belfast has stories on Quire Belfast (Northern Ireland's only LGBT such choral group), as well as plenty of general tips on travel in the city and surrounding countryside.